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F-35A Lightning II 1:48 (LS-007)


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F-35A Lightning II

1:48 Meng Model




Probably one of the (if not the) most contentious and publically berated projects since the beginning of aviation over a hundred years ago, the F-35 in its three guises has been a marathon journey from proposal to production and testing, with the first few going into service this decade.  Initially named the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), there were three variants proposed, all of which shared the same overall configuration and look, as well as borrowing technology from the now in-service F-22.  Combining a stealthy surface with internal weapons bays, supersonic performance and an in-depth sensor-fusion that provides the pilot with excellent situational awareness and a broader "sense" of the whole battlesphere, the software alone has been a mammoth task.  Coupled with the new technologies utilised, and the number of contractors/countries involved, it has gone over time and budget on a number of occasions, with frequent threats and calls to cancel the project in favour of other options.  Various customers have also opted in and out of the end-of-project purchase, and numbers of airframes have been chopped and changed by various customers as political wrangling and budget-balancing became involved.


Irrespective of the political back and forth, the engineering side of things has progressed through the hurdles, and at the end of 2006 the maiden flight of an A variant was made, followed two years later by the STOVL B variant with its controversial lift fan.  Fast-forward to 2015 and the US Marines were happy enough to call it suitable for initial operations.  The navalised F-35C will join the fray in 2018 after many issues are resolved around carrier operations.


The A variant is the smallest of the three airframes and is aiming to replace the F-16 eventually, although it will have a monster of a job replacing the Falcon in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts, as well as the differences in cost.  Great Britain will be taking a number of A and B variants amongst its purchase for "synergy" between forces.  Don't you just love management speak?  No, me neither.



The Kit

We've had a couple of kits in this scale of the F-35, with a fairly recent release from another company that I suspect is about to be eclipsed by this brand new tooling from Meng, who have an excellent reputation for quality products.  The kit arrives in one of Meng's usual high class boxes with their trademark satin finish, and a handsome painting on the top.  On the sides are profiles of the decal choices, as well as an announcement of their collaboration with AK Interactive on new paints specifically to depict the tricky colours of the Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) coatings applied to these and other modern jets.  Inside the box are thirteen sprues and two fuselage halves in a dark blue/grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, decal sheet, a diminutive instruction booklet, and a colour painting and decaling guide in the same narrow portrait format.
















First impressions are that unlike the companies that issued F-22 kits in this scale a few years back, Meng have got the balance of raised detail about right, with neither too much nor too little, all of which should look good under paint.  Speaking of paint, we'll be reviewing a new set of masks for this kit's complex RAM coatings from Galaxy Model soon, so watch this space.  I'll put a link to it when it's live.  Parts breakdown seems logical, detail is good, and a set of PE belts are included for the cockpit, which is always nice.  Construction begins with this area, with a six-part ejection seat plus the aforementioned belts fitting into the cockpit tub, with only rudder, the two sticks making up the HOTAS control system, plus the instrument panel and coaming added last of all.  There is an instrument panel decal for the digital panel that takes up most of the room, which should look good once set within the deep coaming. 








The gear bays must be built up next, as they will be closed up within the fuselage once complete.  The nose gear bay is a single part into which the completed single-wheeled nose gear leg fits, with the scissor-link and retraction jack being separate parts, as well as two more that complete the detail.  This can be left off until after painting, happily.  The main bays are two-part assemblies, and the main gear legs have separate retraction jacks, links and scissor-links, totalling 6 parts each.  Whilst these bays should suffice for a great many, a little additional detail would have been appreciated, as they seem a bit simplified on closer nspection.  The weapons bays are both 6-part assemblies that depict the large tubing that runs their entire length, and while they too could be considered a little simplified, once you install the supplied GBU-53 small diameter bombs and their pylons in the bays, you'll probably see very little.




The intake trunking is full depth, with the two intakes joining in front of the single fan of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, which is a separate part with the fan face moulded in.  The exhaust is relatively short, with a one-piece cylindrical trunk with the rear of the engine at the bottom, into which there are two PE mesh parts added, hiding most of what would otherwise be visible.  The exhaust petals have excellent detail and finesse, and should be fine for all but the most detail-conscious, slipping over the end of the trunk and locking within the fuselage bottom on two lips.  The port and starboard weapons bays, main bays, nose bay and intake trunking all attach to the lower fuselage half, with only the cockpit tub fitting into the upper half.  Two pairs of small holes are drilled through the top in the aft section and then the two halves are brought together, with a few small panels added to recesses in front of the cockpit and on the spine, with the option of open or closed refuelling receptacle.


Although the airframe has blended wings, they are separate parts, with a healthy overlap on the topside providing excellent strength of the finished article.  Leading edge slats and flaps are added to the two-part wings, with holes drilled out for the pylons if you intend to fit them.  Breaking the stealthy configuration allows the carriage of more munitions on the two underwing pylons, with a smaller outer pylon able to take addition air-to-air defensive armament of either AIM-9 or AIM-120 missiles.  The elevators can be posed at a 10o droop, or in line with the airframe by using one of two inserts on the booms at either side of the exhaust, into which the completed two-part assemblies fix.  The twin fins are also two parts each, with the stealthy lumps hiding all the machinery within.  Under the fuselage the built-in laser-designator and various other lumps are added, after which you can choose to close up or leave open any combination of bays by adding or leaving off the hinges on some, or choosing the appropriate closed parts for the nose gear.  There are a LOT of doors due to the internal weapons carried, but take your time and it'll all come together.  In addition, a pair of AIM-120s can be fitted to the main weapons bays on a small pylon adapter, which deploys the weapon as the doors open.




The F-35's canopy is quite heavily tinted with a golden hue, and that tint is sadly missing from the kit part.  It isn't difficult to replicate however, simply by adding some clear acrylic yellow (or food colouring) to the Klear/Future that you dip the canopy into.  There are numerous tutorials online, and I did just this with my Mig-31 Foxhound build a while back.  Don't be tempted to sand off those fine canopy frame lines, as they're supposed to be there, and you'd have a devil of a job doing it because they're on the inside of the part!  Clarity of the canopy is excellent, and Meng's inclusion of a piece of self-cling foil to the sprue certainly helps keep it that way until you are ready for it.  There is an internal plastic frame part that glues inside the clear part, and this should be painted in anticipation of installation, as should the fine framework mentioned earlier.  Masking is the way to go here, and while you are working in the area, you might as well paint the inside of the canopy for further realism.  Fitting the canopy in the closed position is simply a case of applying glue to the part and pressing it home, while an open canopy requires the installation of four parts in the coaming, as the whole canopy tilts forward for pilot egress. 


With that the model is ostensibly completed, apart from adding any exterior stores that you might wish to depict.  If you don't use the two AIM-120s in the belly, these can be used on the outer wing pylons, as can a pair of AIM-9Xs that sadly aren't included.  The main wing pylons are wired for bombs such as the GBU-13, -39, -53 or -54, all of which are detailed in the final diagram that shows their probable location even though these items aren't included in the kit.  There is however a new range of aftermarket styrene weapons sets coming from Meng, which may go at least some way toward explaining the dearth in the box.




I can almost hear a chorus of "boring grey jet" from some readers (if they haven't tuned out already), and you wouldn't be wrong about the grey part, to an extent at least.  Both decal options are painted a dark grey, with some of the raised panels a lighter grey, both of which weather out a little lighter with use, as can be seen on the F-22 that has now seen some active service.  Masking those areas would be a chore, and could drive a modeller insane, so look out for my upcoming review of the Galaxy Models mask set in due course.




From the box you can build one of the following:


  • F-35A 13-5071 34th FS, 388th FW, USAF piloted by Lt. Col. George Watkins, Hill AFB, 2016
  • F-35A 11-5033 33rd FW, USAF, piloted by Lance Pilch, Eglin AFB, 2015


The colours are called out in AK Interactive codes, as well as Acrysion Water Based Color, which is a new issue from the Mr Hobby range that dries faster than their existing colours.  Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.




If you've got this far, you're clearly in the market for a model of an F-35A, and in my humble opinion this is now the one to get if fit and finish is key to your modelling enjoyment.  Casting my eyes over the parts in the box, this is a typical Meng product, so will please many.  Of course they have gone into competition with another previously released modern tooling of the subject, but Meng have built up a following by providing excellent kits of sometimes unusual subjects, and I for one am a fan.


Very highly recommended.




Review sample courtesy of


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14 minutes ago, Mike said:

The A variant is the smallest of the three airframes and is aiming to replace the F-16 eventually, although it will have a monster of a job replacing the Falcon in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts, as well as the differences in cost.  Great Britain will be taking a number of A and B variants amongst its purchase for "synergy" between forces.  Don't you just love management speak?  No, me neither.



Great review! The kit does look very tempting and as you mentioned they appear to have finally nailed the moulding of the RAM "zig-zags".

Only point I would raise is: Since when did we suggest getting the F35A!? (This is news to me)


High on my wishlist (besides a new-tooled 1:72 Vulcan, come on Airfix...) is a 1:72 F35B (not the extortionately expensive Fujimi example) with RAF markings in the kit, or perhaps a re-release by Kitty Hawk of their F35B to lower the online selling prices slightly.


Kind regards,



For what it's worth, I love the aircraft...  *runs away*

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3 minutes ago, cathasatail said:

Since when did we suggest getting the F35A!? (This is news to me)


There's a recent inferrence here reported by Janes, and with the C model being the most expensive, we're likely to go for the A, as indicated here too :)

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On 8/15/2017 at 8:52 PM, Mike said:


There's a recent inferrence here reported by Janes, and with the C model being the most expensive, we're likely to go for the A, as indicated here too :)

Looks a nice kit and worth adding to the stash as it's the future of a lot of Airforces so as time go's by maybe,maybe more schemes will emerge?..

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  • Mike changed the title to F-35A Lightning II 1:48 (LS-007)

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